7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pets in Colonial America

Training the Puppy

People have enjoyed keeping pets for thousands of years. Have you ever wondered what type of animals were domesticated in Colonial America? Colonials referred to their pets as their "favorites." They enjoyed having their portraits painted with their their beloved creatures, providing us with a record of their fondness for animals...sometimes taken from the wild. However, one must note that the animals may not have been cooperative for the sitting and it may have been painted in. Yet, the pet obsession is still evident.

Naturally, there was the family dog. Smaller varieties were called comfort dogs, while most others were sporting dogs. Breeds included spaniels, hounds, setters, pointers,  terriers, bulldogs, and mastiffs. George Washington journaled an inventory of dog breeds.

The Peale Family with Dog by Charles Willson Peale

Birds of all varieties were in vogue, caged and leashed. Songbirds such as cardinals and mockingbirds were especially popular.
Girl with Bird and Dog by John Singleton Copley


  Huzzah! I just discovered that this painting (below) is in our local college art museum. Must see!

Anne Fairchild Mrs Metcal Bowler by John Singleton Copley
In Kittery, Maine, Colonial Governor, Sir William Pepperel stocked his park with deer, others kept deer for their hunting stock, but sometimes as pets. In 1752, Dr. Benjamin Jones of Virginia “kept over a hundred deer to amuse his children and grandchildren. A little bell he used on a pet deer is owned by one of his descendants.”

Boy with a Deer by John Van Cortlandt   

Finnish-Swedish naturalist, Peter Kalm, when he traveled tot he American colonies in 1748-51 observed that, "The raccoon can in time be made so tame as to run about the streets like a domestic animal; but it is impossible to make it leave off its habit of stealing. . .Beavers have been tamed to such an extent that they have brought home what they caught by fishing to their masters. This is often the case with otters, of which I have seen some that were as tame as dogs, and followed their master wherever he went."

Deborah Hall by William Williams

In 1798, Elizabeth Drinker of Philadelphia wrote in her diary that her son William had “bought a flying squirrel in market, brought it home to please the children. I should have been better pleased had it remained in the woods."

A Boy with a Flying Squirrel by John Singleton Copley

Mrs William Cole and her cat by George Beare
Miss Frances Warren by Joseph Wright
Young Girl Holding a Monkey by Rosalba Carriera

What kind of animal would you enjoy having as a pet if you lived in colonial times?

Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America By Virginia DeJohn Anderson
Pets in America: A History By Katherine C. Grier



  1. Perfect timing! My post today is on aviaries, bird cages, and dove cotes. :D

  2. What a choice! I know I would have had a cat, as I'm definitely a "cat person", but I've always wanted to have lambs. Naturally, I'd have a horse, but I guess we might count that as transportation. I would adore to have had a domesticated deer to have as a "favorite", since that is something that we don't keep as pets today. What about you?

    1. Squirrel, not so much. Too much like a rodent for me.

  3. What a lovely post! Having had quite an array of pets myself--dogs, cats, rabbits, a squirrel, love birds, parakeets, hermit crabs, a lizard, tadpoles, frogs, aquarium fish. . . I can only improve on that with a horse. But alas, in the 21st century they are far too difficult and expensive to keep.
    Perhaps I will need to time travel to the Colonial times for that pleasure. :)

    1. we also had a tame deer visit us when we first moved out here to the country. We didn't "keep" him, but he napped in our yard for a while.

    2. Aw, that's sweet! We had a wonderful herd of deer behind our house a few years ago and I loved seeing them. But I think I'd really prefer to admire them in the wild where they belong.

  4. This is rather new to me. Yes, I've seen the pets in portraits but never thought about the extent beyond the occasional lap dog. Hmmm. good question... given fleas and ticks in all those pets, I might go with a canary. That would mean I needed a warm house to live in as well!
    (yes, I have a dog and a cat and I've had a guinea pig, goats, baby rabbits, baby mice, canaries and a pony, so I'm not adverse to pets, just the idea of what crawls on them!)

    1. I hear, you, Deb! Never thought about the creepy crawly aspect of it.

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